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Cartographic Resources for Genealogical Research: Eastern Europe and Russia

Gazetteers and Geographic Coordinates

Usually the best source for locating latitude and longitude remains the gazetteer. A gazetteer essentially is an alphabetical list of geographic names that are currently applied or have been applied to places and features of the landscape. They can also cover feature names on ocean bottoms, as well as on planetary bodies and the moon. Gazetteer's are especially helpful when they include the geographic coordinates (latitude, longitude) within the entry for a place name. When printed gazetteers lack geographic coordinates, researchers possess alternate online resources for information.

Over the next few pages we will employ several examples for identifying the locations of select place names that incorporate gazetteers, and apply that information to graphic indexes of five sets of maps that have proved useful when searching for towns and villages in East Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and European Russia. We will focus on topographic set maps of Austria-Hungary, Germany, Poland, Russia, and western Russia from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Other sets of maps exist, but the ones referenced in this guide are those most frequently consulted by reference staff when searching for historical place names.

Because map sets are so large and consist of hundreds of sheets, they must be navigated by graphic indexes. A graphic index essentially depicts the coverage available for a specific set of maps. Because graphic indexes are organized along the same nomenclature used in producing the maps they describe, not all are alike, but each is germane to the particular set of maps it describes. In the next section we will cover five of the most heavily used sets of map in undertaking research in genealogy in the division.